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More Interviews than Expected - No Longer Interested in Safeties?

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FAO

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Hi,

I've had more success receiving interviews than I expected, and it's made me reconsider my interest in my safety schools. Please understand that I don't mean this post to be a brag, or as a troll. I'd like to lay the facts out plainly, and I recognize that I'm fortunate to be in this position. Still, I'm not sure of the best way to navigate this situation, and I'm hoping for some guidance.

I applied to 21 MSTP programs this year, with a wide range of competetiveness (~#1-#50 US News). I did this because I was very uncertain of where I would stand in competition with other students because of a weird quirk in my application that I'd rather not disclose (too identifying, probably not relevant to this discussion).

At this point in the interview cycle, I have received interview invites from almost all of my "safety" schools (5 of them), as well as 4 of my "match" schools. I am still waiting to hear back from my "reach" schools, which I applied to later in the cycle.

Now that I've had some success receiving interviews, I think it's possible that with another year of research experience and an early application, I could be competitive for top programs. If this is true, I'd be willing to take another year to make it happen. In that case, as far as I understand, it would be greatly to my disadvantage to have turned down an acceptance.

I have heard the advice that all MSTP training is good MSTP training, but I can't help but think that completing my PhD in a big-name lab at at top 10 school would be a more exciting way to spend 8 years, and provide better opportunities to enter into academia than a mid-tier lab at school #50.

1) Is this not true?
and
2) Should I cancel the safety interviews so that I'm not stuck with an acceptance I don't want to take?
 

gutonc

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Personally, I think this is a terrible idea. You know the saying about a bird in the hand, right?

You've got 9 guaranteed interviews and a few more potentially pending. The only guarantee you have if you blow those off and wait a year is that you'll be a year older and there are 9 programs that won't interview you.
 
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mercaptovizadeh

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Hi,

I've had more success receiving interviews than I expected, and it's made me reconsider my interest in my safety schools. Please understand that I don't mean this post to be a brag, or as a troll. I'd like to lay the facts out plainly, and I recognize that I'm fortunate to be in this position. Still, I'm not sure of the best way to navigate this situation, and I'm hoping for some guidance.

I applied to 21 MSTP programs this year, with a wide range of competetiveness (~#1-#50 US News). I did this because I was very uncertain of where I would stand in competition with other students because of a weird quirk in my application that I'd rather not disclose (too identifying, probably not relevant to this discussion).

At this point in the interview cycle, I have received interview invites from almost all of my "safety" schools (5 of them), as well as 4 of my "match" schools. I am still waiting to hear back from my "reach" schools, which I applied to later in the cycle.

Now that I've had some success receiving interviews, I think it's possible that with another year of research experience and an early application, I could be competitive for top programs. If this is true, I'd be willing to take another year to make it happen. In that case, as far as I understand, it would be greatly to my disadvantage to have turned down an acceptance.

I have heard the advice that all MSTP training is good MSTP training, but I can't help but think that completing my PhD in a big-name lab at at top 10 school would be a more exciting way to spend 8 years, and provide better opportunities to enter into academia than a mid-tier lab at school #50.

1) Is this not true?
and
2) Should I cancel the safety interviews so that I'm not stuck with an acceptance I don't want to take?

Don't do this to yourself. Take your acceptances and run. You can always excel and get that "big name" crap at a higher level, like residency/fellowship/postdoc. It's not all it's cracked up to be.
 
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Agree with above. Would also note:
- Big-name school != big-name lab. Doing your PhD in a big-name lab is indeed helpful, but those exist at all levels of 'USNews,' as do struggling, non-big-name labs.
- Another year will not necessarily be a major improvement to your application unless your research experience was insufficient, which doesn't sound like it is the case, or if you would take the year to do something competitive (like a funded NIH or HHMI predoctoral fellowship, or a Rhodes or Marshall or something)
- Delaying a year could hurt you also; you may have to explain why you pulled out of the application cycle the previous year ("I wanted to shoot for a higher USNews ranking" won't go over well), and subtle age-discrimination by admissions can set in after age 24-25 as well, due to the sheer length of the program.
 
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